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I’m delighted to share with you an excerpt from The Foyles Bookshop Girls by Elaine Roberts, courtesy of Aria. I am very much looking forward to reading this book, as it is set in a London bookshop during World War II. If you enjoy the excerpt, I encourage you to enter the giveaway below!

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Chapter 2

Alice sighed with relief. Foyles Bookstore frontage was unmissable. The message was clear. They were the largest booksellers in London, with six floors. If a novel was purchased and returned after it was read, there would be a refund of two thirds of the price for each book. They had created quite a name since William and Gilbert Foyle started selling their own unwanted books in 1903. Everyone who started working there was told about their vision of having a bookshop for the people.

She paused for a moment to take a couple of deep breaths, hoping to lessen the heat on her face, catching sight of her reflection in a shop window. Her slender figure was slightly distorted by the glass as she patted down the wide, black-edged lapels of her white blouse. Her hand automatically ran down the small black buttons, twisting each one in turn. She took a deep breath, patted her pinned up hair and stepped towards the open doorway of the shop.

The shutters were being lifted and bookstands were being placed by the entrance and to the side of the store. Customers of all ages were already gathering.

‘Morning, Miss Taylor.’ A slim man towered above her. ‘You only just made it on time.’ He frowned.

Her heart pummelled in her chest. She looked up at his stern expression. His grey hair was greased back. ‘Sorry, sir, I foolishly went to St Thomas’ before I came to work.’ Colour flushed her cheeks; Mr Leadbetter was a stickler for timekeeping.

‘Oh.’ His face softened. ‘Nothing wrong I trust?’

‘No, sir, I’ve so many books indoors, I wanted to give some to the hospital…’ Alice’s voice faded to a mumble. ‘For the patients.’

Mr Leadbetter raised his eyebrows. His hands linked behind his back, making his dark grey jacket gape revealing more of his blue tie and lily-white shirt. ‘Very commendable.’ He paused for a moment. ‘You do know we sell second-hand books as well as new ones, don’t you?’

The corners of Alice’s lips lifted slightly. ‘Of course, sir, I’ve worked here for a few years now. I just thought it would be a good thing to do, but I should have waited until my day off.’

Mr Leadbetter nodded and stepped aside for Alice to walk through the store to the staff room. Having removed her hat and left it with her shopping bag, she stood in front of a large white clock face with its wooden surround and pulled her clocking-in card from the individual slots next to it. She dropped it into a hole in front of the clock and pulled it out again. Alice looked down at the time stamp, realising she had only just made it on time. Quickly placing it back, she hurried into the shop.

Foyles had an air of a library about it as men, women and children lifted books from the shelves to look at the covers and read the first few pages. People whispered to each other, some louder than others, as their excitement grew. The bookshop had become a popular meeting place. There were shelves upon shelves of old and new books, priced from tuppence upwards. She took a deep breath, never tiring of the smell that came from them. She smiled, remembering how Mr Leadbetter had caught her with her nose in a book, her eyes shut, savouring the smell. He hadn’t questioned her; he understood and they spent ten minutes trying to work out how to describe it. Was it woody? But then there was a trace of something else; maybe it was the ink or dust. If the previous reader had been a smoker, then that also clung to the pages. No one in the store thought it was odd; they were book lovers, after all.

Alice stepped behind the counter and placed her pad of bill payments in front of her.

‘Morning, Alice, everything all right? I saw old Leadbetter talking to you.’

Alice looked up and smiled at Molly. ‘Shh, don’t call him that, he’s quite nice really.’

‘Huh, I am not so sure about that.’ Molly pulled back her shoulders and lifted her chin, showing she was a head taller than her friend. She pushed back her blonde fringe and patted the bun that was neatly formed at the nape of her neck. ‘I don’t think he likes me.’

Alice laughed. ‘He’s probably heard what you call him.’ She reached for a pen and placed it on top of her pad. ‘Right, I’m ready.’ Alice glanced over at the payment booth, expecting to see Victoria sitting there but it was empty. ‘Is Victoria in yet?’

Molly shrugged her shoulders. ‘Vic’s nearly always late. I don’t know how she gets away with it.’

Alice frowned. ‘Don’t call her that, she hates it.’ She took a deep breath; the waft of carbolic soap hit her. In an attempt to clear her throat, she gave a slight cough.

Molly’s bottom lip jutted out as she stared intently across at the payment booth. ‘Well, you can’t deny Miss Victoria Appleton seems to get away with things that no one else would.’

Alice sighed. ‘Stop being mean, she has a lot on her plate, and anyway she probably gets docked fifteen minutes pay every time she’s late.’

Molly’s eyes looked heavenward. ‘As always.’ She frowned. ‘If she’s so poor, you wouldn’t think she could afford to lose money like that.’

‘Stop it. You or I wouldn’t be able to cope with the things she does at twenty years old.’ Alice glared at her friend for a moment before allowing her features to soften. ‘Something’s clearly bothering you but we can’t talk about it now; maybe at lunch time.’

‘What makes you think something’s wrong?’

Alice laughed. ‘You’re obviously not in a good mood.’ Glancing over at the payment booth again she saw Victoria stepping inside and locking herself in. She looked pale and weighed down. Alice smiled and waved at her friend but she wasn’t looking her way.

‘I’m in a perfectly good mood for a Monday morning, thank you very much.’ Molly smiled through gritted teeth.

‘What’s happened?’ Alice turned to give Molly her full attention. ‘Didn’t you have a very good weekend?’

Molly stared down at the counter, her fingers tracing the wood grain. ‘It was fine.’

Alice shook her head. ‘We’ve been friends since we were children; you do know you can tell me anything, don’t you?’

Molly looked up and frowned. ‘We have, but we come from very different backgrounds.’

‘Not that different, and it’s never been an issue before, so what’s happened to make it one now?’ Alice squinted at her, trying to read what was going on.

‘Miss Cooper.’

Molly turned around to see Mr Leadbetter staring at her; she feigned a smile. ‘Yes, Mr Leadbetter.’

‘Is this your post for today?’

‘No, sir, I’m just going there now.’ Molly stepped past him without waiting for a response.

Alice watched him smile after Molly. The smile vanished as quickly as it arrived. He turned towards Alice. ‘We could be in for another busy day today, so please keep your eye on things. I don’t want half the stock going missing.’ He gave a curt nod and stepped aside, allowing a customer to be served.

Alice smiled at the lady standing in front of her. ‘Good morning, isn’t it a glorious day?’ She took the book the customer was holding out towards her.

‘It certainly is. Too nice to be shut inside.’

‘You’re right, but I do love being surrounded by all these wonderful books.’ Alice smiled. She looked down and completed the bill payment form before giving it to the customer. ‘If you would like to take this slip, together with tuppence, over to the payment booth.’ Alice indicated to her left. ‘Make your payment and then come back to me with your receipt.’

The lady gave a toothless smile. ‘I will.’ A gnarled hand reached out and took the slip of paper. ‘Thank you.’

Alice watched her hobble over to the payment booth; she hadn’t noticed her leaning heavily on a walking stick. She should have done and offered to take her payment over there for her. A low sigh escaped; it was too late now though, and she’d probably have been dismissed for trying to be helpful. Frowning, she recalled another assistant getting the sack for the same thing. They had all been reminded that it’s clearly stated they were not to handle any money outside of the payment booth. With her smile permanently fixed, Alice moved onto the next customer.

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About The Foyles Bookshop Girls

London, 1914: one ordinary day, three girls arrive for work at London’s renowned Foyles bookshop. But when war with Germany is declared their lives will never be the same again…

Alice has always been the ‘sensible’ one in her family – especially in comparison with her suffragesupporting sister! But decidedly against her father’s wishes, she accepts a job at Foyles Bookshop; and for bookworm Alice it’s a dream come true. But with the country at war, Alice’s happy world is shattered in an instant.

Determined to do what she can, Alice works in the bookshop by day, and risks her own life driving an ambulance around bomb-ravaged London by night. But however busy she keeps herself, she can’t help but think of the constant danger those she loves are facing on the frontline…

Alice, Victoria and Molly couldn’t be more different and yet they share a friendship that stems back to their childhood – a friendship that provides everyday solace from the tribulations and heartbreak of war.

Perfect for fans of Elaine Everest, Daisy Styles and Rosie Hendry.

Buy links: Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play

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About the Author

Elaine Roberts

Elaine Roberts had a dream to write for a living. She completed her first novel in her twenties and received her first very nice rejection. Life then got in the way until she picked up her dream again in 2010. She joined a creative writing class, The Write Place, in 2012 and shortly afterwards had her first short story published. Elaine and her patient husband, Dave, have five children who have flown the nest. Home is in Dartford, Kent and is always busy with their children, grandchildren, grand dogs and cats visiting.

Follow Elaine: Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway

Aria is offering 2 ebook copies of The Foyles Bookshop Girls to my readers. This giveaway is open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, June 24, 2018. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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